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Wind Cave National Park and Cold Brook Lake -- Road Trip Day 6


Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota was next on our roadtrip out to WA from PA with two dogs in tow. We arrived here after our day at Badlands National Park! Wind Cave NP, like most national parks, does not allow dogs on pretty much all trails (or caves!). They are allowed in parking lots and within a few feet of trailheads. This is usually to both protect the landscape AND to protect the dogs from uncontrollable wildlife situations. That's okay with me. I'm not sure our dogs would fare well against a bison (I'm sure the dogs think they would though)

We did the Prairie Vista Loop Trail which is one of the only dog friendly trails in the park. I think large wildlife is actually fenced off from this area. From there we got back in the car and just enjoyed seeing the landscapes from the car and pulloffs. Wind Cave is really two parks in one. Sprawling beautiful landscapes on the surface, as well as a massive cave system below. It was another scorching hot day so we weren't going to do much with the dogs anyway!


From the Prairie Vista Trail -- Wind Cave NP
Prairie Vista Trail -- Wind Cave NP. The only trail dogs are allowed on!

Wind Cave National Park is located in South Dakota's Black Hills and was actually the first NP to protect a cave system! It's too darn bad we didn't get to see it. This road trip was my first time learning about the Black Hills in general. What an incredible region. Super beautiful. It's not what I was expecting areas of South Dakota to look like at all.


Trees on Prairie Vista Trail -- Wind Cave NP
Cute Trees! Maybe we didn't get to see the caves, but the above ground scenery is amazing!

Black Hills Views from Wind Cave
See this is what I mean, look at those sweeping Black Hills views!


Wind Cave National Park -- Alpine Terrain
This part of the park surprised me.As we drove along the park road, it starts to look more...alpine almost. Beautiful vegetation, rocks, and trees!


We unfortunately didn't see much wildlife. That's mostly how our luck goes wherever we go. We saw a bison from far away, but were certainly got to see some more prairie dogs, much like at Badlands NP. Look at this guy below! It's almost like he was posing for us!


A Prairie Dog Amongst the Black Hills -- Wind Cave NP
I caught this Prairie Dog dude just chillin'. Beautiful Black Hills in the background.


Wind Cave NP Hills
Rolling hills of Wind Cave NP

Dogs at Wind Cave
I think the dogs enjoyed themselves even though they could only do a single trail. Anything to get out of the car for a little while! This was right on a car pull off so we tried to get the dogs posed with the beautiful scenery. They did...okay.

I would love to come back without the dogs to visit the cave system that we unfortunately missed on our trip to Wind Cave NP! I've been on several cave tours before, almost all in Pennsylvania. PA does have some pretty cool cave systems too. 

In fact, Penns Cave near State College, PA offers boat tours through its cave system which is filled with water. Super cool experience. We also did Luray Caverns in Virginia as a side quest when we went to Shenandoah National Park. Interestingly, a lot of sites seem to rate Luray Caverns higher than Wind Cave. I didn't realize it at the time but apparently Luray Caverns is one of the most popular and sought after cave trips in the country. It'll be interesting to see how Luray stacks up to Wind Cave if we every make it back to see the cave system!

Since we couldn't take the dogs into the cave, we had some extra time in the area. Based on daylight, we decided we could spend some time at another site, preferably closer to our lodging area. On Roadtrippers we found out about Cold Brook Lake / Reservoir so we visited that before heading to lodging for the night!

Cold Brook Lake

We paid for a year of the Roadtrippers app to help us along our way from PA to WA. Cold Brook Lake showed up on there as a place near Hot Springs. What a suggestion! I'm sure glad we went! It was a beautiful spot. The roads down the lake were super unkept and unmanaged though. I thought we were going to sink into a pothole and be stuck in South Dakota forever.

It's a smaller reservoir created by the Cold Brook Dam, which is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The site is primarily geared toward outdoor recreation and offers a variety of activities such as fishing, boating, and swimming, although the primary purpose of the dam is for flood control.


Standing on top of Cold Brook Dam
On top of the Dam! Cold Brook Lake. Incredible view!
We walked out over the top of the dam to view the lake in all its glory. We then walked to the bottom for a different view. We also wanted to leave because two trucks drove by, kinda watched us for a bit then left. South Dakota is beautiful, but the people were.... a little odd. I don't think they like outsiders in their area. Whoops on the PA license plate. 

Picnic areas are also available, offering a great spot to relax and enjoy a meal amid the natural beauty of the area.


Cold Brook Lake from the Dam
So glad we found this place!


Cold Brook Lake Dam
I had to take a picture. This red soil was too cool. taken from atop the Cold Brook Lake Dam


Now if only they could pave the road so our little hybrid car can make it down the hill to the lake. Not in SD I guess. Gotta have a truck *shrugs*. We slammed and banged the entire way down to the lake itself with washboarding and potholes on the road. I guess that usually means you're about to see something cool! Once we got down there people stared pretty hardcore at us. We noticed that a lot until we got into Washington. There was a lot of staring. When on the dam section there was a truck that very noticeably stopped to stare us. A young unmarried couple with a two tiny dogs in the middle of nowhere. Unusual I guess?


Clear Cold Brook Lake from the surface!
Clear Blue Water with tree lined red hills. Love it!


Lodging for the Night

Hot Springs Waterfall Near Kidney Springs
Ah the Hot Springs Waterfall. This was down the street from our lodging cabin. Right before the Hot Springs waterfall pictured here was Kidney Springs.

Kidney Springs in Hot Springs, South Dakota, is apparently renowned for its therapeutic natural thermal spring, historically sought after for its healing properties. Visitors often collect the spring's mineral-rich water, believed to benefit health, from a pipe flowing at a constant 83°F. You can fill a bottle with the springs water if so desired!

After visiting Badlands then Cold Brook,  we headed to our lodging for the evening. We stayed at Americas Best Value Inn "Inn By The River" in Hot Springs, SD. They had a motel with a few cabins that were pretty cool. It appears however, they are now known as Springs Lodge and Cafe. It was a pretty neat location and the cabin we rented was cozy with AC. PRAISE THE COOL AIR GODS.

Unfortunately, we passed through on a Monday so nearly all of the food places in the area were closed, as Mondays usually are days off for restaurant folk. We settled on... please don't judge us...but pizza and wings from Pizza Hut. It was a guilty pleasure. Shush. That night, out of nowhere, the radar started popping up with some crazy storms. We had some severe thunderstorms roll through with torrential rain, lightning, and even brief small hail. I LOVED it!! Apparently that is very normal for the Black Hills during summer. 

Onward to Day 7 Custer State Park and Devil's Tower National Monument!


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